On June 20, 2011, ICANN announced that private organizations would be able to obtain TLDs for their own private control. In addition to the SEO potential available in these TLDs in their own right, controlling your own domain zone enhances your ability to take advantage of well-known SEO techniques.
Opportunity No. 1: Increase search term density in domains. One well-understood SEO technique is to maximize the density of search terms in the domain. That's the idea behind using subdomains for SEO purposes. By eliminating useless words like .com, you can increase that density.
Opportunity No. 2: Critical search terms in the second-level domain. A common Google behavior is to grant better position to pages with the searched term immediately to the left of the dot. Unfortunately, it's difficult to make use of this behavior since key terms with competition for search position are rarely available domains. But once you control your own domain space, that all changes. You can generate as many pages as you need to; focusing each on the most perfectly relevant term you seek to win. You can add and remove pages and content as you will to optimize your results.
Opportunity No. 3: Build in-link value on critical search terms. In-links are among the strongest of search engine influencers, so much so that a whole industry has sprung up around creating link value. Friendly TLDs make it possible to present the public with obvious URLs that are heavy on the SEO terms for which you want to create href value. For example, let's say you own the .laptop TLD. You could create a super useful page at fast.laptop and then encourage commenters to link in to you. Now, if people know the page as fast.laptop, that's what they'll call it in their linking text, and that will build SEO value on these two key terms, fast and laptop.
This technique is available for any number of modifiers to the word in your TLD. In the above example, you could also make separate pages for powerful, small, lightweight, stylish, and any other word you want. The only limits are the search terms you consider important and the amount of high-quality content you're able to produce and maintain.
Opportunity No. 4: Generate more clicks in any given search position. I'm not aware of any research looking specifically into this question, but common sense dictates that a friendly domain will gain more clicks in any given search position than today's confusing URLs will.
Let's say you search on laptop. A page at laptop.bestbuy is highly likely to contain useful product information and be a place you can purchase. That's a strong cue for a consumer to choose this result over others - such as, say, www.company.com/computers/personal/laptops.html.
Remember, nearly 100 percent of SEO effort is for purposes of bringing more visitors to target sites. Traffic is the true goal. Search position is just a method of gaining this traffic. If it turns out you can increase clicks from a specific search position, that's tantamount to improving your position in search results. Being in the No. 9 spot but getting the same number of clicks as the guy in No.8 is every bit as good as being No. 8. Over time, especially as consumers learn to look for your friendly domain, I expect that preference will just continue to increase.
Note also that these three opportunities apply to your paid search as well - and increased search performance for your listing can increase the return on your SEM spend.
Future Proof for Your SEO Strategy
One could point out that many of these assumptions are just that. I agree. The algorithms don't exist today, nor do the TLDs or the content under them. So we'll all explore these ideas together.
One thing about which there is no question, however, is that only those organizations with their own TLDs will have the opportunity to participate in the upside. Large companies can easily spend millions on SEO and SEM each year, and many millions more on other marketing programs. Comparatively, the price of applying for and running your own top-level domain is just a drop in the bucket.
It is a small investment to make considering the potential gains, and as the world learns how best to use these gTLDs for SEO purposes, only those who control their .brand domains will be positioned to take advantage of them. Companies must decide if they want to be a part of that progress, however it shapes up, or if they prefer to sit on the sidelines and let others overtake them.
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Tim Callan is chief marketing officer of Melbourne IT Digital Brand Services (DBS), which helps 3,500+ clients, including some of the world's top brands, minimize risk and make smarter decisions in managing their online presence. Tim is a former board member of the Online Trust Alliance and once owned his own marketing consultancy.
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